Mar 29, 2018

October 30, 1970: SUNY Gym, Stony Brook


Seeing the Grateful Dead ever more becomes a complex situation, filled with ritual, worship, and even madness. There are those who would (and do) pursue them across the country or put their asses on the line by attempting to steal past fences and security guards that they might trip out of their faces on stage behind Jerry Garcia's amplifier. If any band is enchanted, it is the Grateful Dead and if any night is the Dead's night, it is Halloween.

We journeyed to see the Grateful Dead at Stoney Brook on Halloween as, no doubt, thousands did, until Penn Station, it seemed nothing less than a pilgrimage.
I was enchanted from the very beginning. With Kevin's car incapacitated, the only alternative was hitching. So, two friends and myself waited along with six others in an intermittent drizzle on the entrance to the Thruway.
But the spirits of the day were partial to our malaise and within four hours, by way of two long rides, we arrived at Binghamton, cramped and woozy. Kevin and I grew uneasy. Things that go too smoothly are always subject to suspicion. Certainly the worst was yet to come.
We left our friend at Harpur with night an hour old already and the cold becoming quietly noticeable.
A short ride left us, along with one other passenger, several blocks from Route 17. Together the three of us walked down Susquehanna Ave. in this silly town of Binghamton. Our guide, short and large with curly hair, a ring in her nose, an American Indian and four months pregnant to boot. Being with her was one of those few fragile and precious human interchanges that remind you, if need be, that you are alive.
We walked slowly through the ghetto of Binghamton while our little lady rapped on about most everything. Early trick or treaters in masks and sheets danced around in the streets.
She asked us if we were hungry ("We don't have much, but if you boys are hungry, y'gotta eat"). We explained that we'd eaten and we blessed her kindness silently.
We left her at her house and she wished us luck, reminding us once more exactly where on 17 we should stand. We wished her the best with the new baby and she laughed. "Oh, don't you worry none 'bout the baby, it's me you gotta worry 'bout with three of them now, running around all crazy." We moved on as she stood at the gate, calling on her roommate in Spanish.
A short ten-minute ride and then the final deliverance - a ride all the way to New York with two guys from Cornell. Well, we thought, the worst doesn't necessarily have to come.
The Bronx! The Bronx! How unholy it seemed, walking away from Kevin's house - still, yet watchful; Halloween pumpkins glowing beside American flags in shaded windows. Change in the Bronx is subtle - always - a few more cracks in the pavement, another tree missing from Mosholu Parkway.
I talked with the folks for a while over coffee and then collapsed into sleep. The little three rooms that compose home never seemed smaller.
The next day's visit to my high school left me shaken. Perhaps it should not have; the stagnancy that has beset every human artifact, movement and situation certainly should not be exempt from a high school.
I spoke for some time with last year's English teacher who, for me, was that one person who remains synonymous with the high school experience. We talked long and the resignation was in his voice, the last voice in which I'd expect to hear it.
Well, high school was always a joke, wasn't it? So why shouldn't it now simply become a different kind of joke? A guy I know raced up to me. "Hey, next week we plan to lower the American flag and put up the YIP and NLF. Plus we got a special knot so they won't be able to get it down!" Said with all the political fervor of a kid with a new toy.
My friend, Maria, in the three weeks I hadn't communicated with her, had transferred to night school close to her home.
Lastly, I spoke to Maryam, a friend visiting from Cornell. Maryam is half Black and Cornell is no place for halfway situations. She sounded beleaguered. We parted, and she told me to try and get in touch with her backstage at the concert that night. Maryam has been with Pigpen for about a year now.
Kevin and I took the subway to Penn Station. It was an old train, its floor littered with that morning's Daily News: "Brunette Found Stabbed In Apartment."
We decided to walk from 34th and Sixth to the station. New York was in the midst of rush hour. Suddenly being thrust into the tumult of New York City after an absence creates an amazing elevation of the senses. Unable to keep pace, we walked slowly as people pushed by us, absorbing fragments of conversation and the smell of roasting chestnuts.
When I bought the train tickets, one-way to Stony Brook, the teller smiled knowingly and said something about the Dead.
Everyone congregated on Track 18, people with packs and guitars, flutes and harps. The commuters shivered.
I met a guy from (of all places) my driver's ed class.
The trip was long and the car filled with cigar smoke and the cries of card players. The guy from driver's ed walked to the back of the train and got quietly stoned outside the car. As we pulled out of some Long Island town, a rock crashed through the window alongside his seat. Calmly, he pulled a frightening splinter of glass out of his ear.
Stony Brook is a completely schizoid environment. Perhaps that is the nature of Long Island. After all, suburbia is in a tenuous position, never knowing when the first project will mark its absorption into urbanization.
Stony Brook is where a person suddenly lays down a rap about Marvel Comic Books and just as suddenly disappears or where two folks with painted faces join your game with the salt shaker at a table in the snack bar or where some non-descript individual joins your plan to locate your friends and just as soon melts back into the crowd that spawned him. It is where people's social games are either much too obvious or else non-existent.
Stony Brook is where the Grateful Dead played on Halloween weekend.

The early show never ended at midnight, having begun late, and we massed outside the gym until 2 a.m.
The Dead's cars, nice, shiny limousines, were parked outside. Limousines. "I thought the Dead don't use limousines?" someone remarked. He sounded offended.
"Seize the Time" lay on the front seat and we slipped some nonsensical note into the book.
Security was quite prominent as they began to admit us slowly, the ushers begging the crowd not to push. The gym filled to capacity.
The New Riders opened. A bit unsure at first, they quickly gathered momentum, mixing the old with the new, until they climaxed with "Honky Tonk Woman."
I had never seen the New Riders of The Purple Sage before, but I am convinced that they produce some of the sweetest and tightest music around. Marmaduke is an intense performer and his songs are all fine compositions. Garcia wrenched amazing sounds out of his steel pedal (an instrument to which I am partial) complete with a wah-wah. They left stage after "Honky Tonk" to a standing ovation but didn't return for an encore.
After a spaced-out Betty Boop cartoon, the Dead came out.
They opened with a brand new song about the hard life of the workingman. Garcia got a nice steel pedal sound out of his guitar during the piece. It seems that he plays both instruments in a similar fashion. After one song, the audience was on its feet and smoke spiralled through the lights.
"China Cat Sunflower" followed and flowed into "Know Your Rider." The combination was possibly the best work of the evening. The Dead seemed especially nostalgic that Friday evening, getting deep into material off Vintage Dead. Besides "Know Your Rider," "Dancing in the Streets" and "It Hurts Me Too" were heard.
"Dancing in the Streets" was the spiritual highlight of the set. Bob Weir turned the vocal into a high-powered plea that brought everyone to their feet. The gym shook as the lights played upon several thousand wiggling asses.
The entire set was a field day for Pigpen. His vocal graced "It Hurts Me Too," "Too Hot to Handle," and the inevitable "Lovelights." He also displayed some fine harp work on "It Hurts ..." Unfortunately he almost completely avoided his organ except during tune-up, when it could be heard grumbling above all else.
Garcia took a back seat for the first half of the concert, allowing Weir to get into some of the finest guitar he has ever produced. Gradually, Garcia began to cook and the entire band swung into that old Grateful Dead magic. Somewhere around here, during "St. Stephen" - "Not Fade Away," they launched into some incredible jamming that had everyone mesmerized.
At last, the Dead moved into a comparatively short "Lovelights," a smoke bomb exploded and they left the stage. The audience screamed and stamped their feet but the Dead didn't reappear.
I found Kevin, who'd disappeared early in the evening. He had found Maryam and spent half the concert in a tiny room backstage, drinking cider, eating cheese and talking with her as the New Riders quietly nodded out in respective corners. The second half, he stood behind Garcia's amplifier, tripping out of his face.
We stepped outside as the sun crept up, red through the grimy air of New York City.
The Dead had come across strong, even in the face of several hassles. During "Not Fade Away" Weir's mike passed out and he spent a moment in a famed Bob Weir fit before moving to another. Later, a speaker blew and had to be completely replaced. It was accomplished quickly and efficiently by the Dead's whiz kid, Ramrod (who turned down Kevin's offered aid). Lastly, the Stony Brook gym is a limited environment, yet the band seemed to need little time to feel it out.
The set was somewhat abbreviated, perhaps due to the overtime allotted to the first show or even a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Dead themselves. The customary acoustic section was sorely missed.
Nonetheless, too many questions were raised in my mind. The Grateful Dead have been playing quite a few concerts these days. In truth, can they be expected to be enjoying themselves even 50% of the time? At what point does pleasure become business and business become drudgery? During "Lovelights" Pigpen wandered away and had to be frantically called back by Weir. And, as a billion flashbulbs popped when Garcia lit a joint, he was heard to mutter: "Big fucking deal."
And as for us, packed inside a gymnasium, the sweat rolling down and joining the sweat of basketball and calisthenics, how far will we go in our frantic worship? Outside the concert, several people attempted to gain free admission. A cop singled out one and proceeded to beat the living shit out of him as an usher implored: "There is no need for that, no need at all!" Who then is the manipulator? The manipulated?
It is said that Garcia's new rap is that we don't need the Grateful Dead; we should learn to entertain ourselves. He should know better and perhaps he does, only falling a victim to wishful thinking. As Robert Hunter, the Dead's lyricist said: "One man gathers what another man spills."
Trick or treat, Jerry.

(by Alan Meerow, from the Spectrum, Buffalo NY, 6 November 1970)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

See also:  (early + late shows w/ NRPS)  

Mar 27, 2018

June 27, 1970: CNE Grandstand, Toronto


"...and unrest was replaced by discontent."

 . . . There will never be another Woodstock. This is a reality which few people seem capable of accepting. It is a reality brought upon our counter-culture by its own technocratic children.
In an age of frozen food, pre-prepared anything you might wish, and programmed individually, the counter-culture has failed to live up to itself and has sold out to pseudo-Woodstock nations presented by hip capitalists who know that the electric freak will usually fork over 15 to 20 dollars to hear what "they think" is "their" music.
A perfect example of pre-programmed Woodstock, hip commercialism, Express in Toronto.
Generally, I have always enjoyed rock music when it is presented live and in great quantities. Having missed Woodstock I have been searching for my own individual Camelot whereby all is togetherness, happiness and music.
Being a bit quixotic, I have been searching for my windmills for a long time. So you can understand that when I began receiving rumors to the effect that this Festival Express thing up in Toronto was going to turn out to be another Woodstock (and remembering the same type of rumors that had been circulating last year about Woodstock) with two or three hundred thousand kids absorbing music, sunshine and each other. Anyway, I contacted my Sancho and fled into the deeply blued cotton filled horizons of Canada.
Well, what it turned out to be and what I had hoped it would be were two completely different things. And as a result of the ensuing events, I have firmly decided to hang up my well-worn stash bag and retire from the festival circuit for good.
It's really a shame that a good thing had to be spoiled by hip capitalism at its finest. Like an assembly line during the Industrial Revolution, rock "promoters" have set up a musical assembly line. It produces prefabricated Woodstock nations (on the minute scale, of course) which flaunt themselves under the guise of the musical "revolution."
Assembly line-rock festivals have a number of highly similar characteristics. Like some poorly written epic drama, each festival contains (sort of like an army survival kit): two or three promoters who are Capitalistic pigs (to quote an oft used phrase), a group of kids fucked up on drugs or trying to get fucked up on drugs, security problems like you were inside a prison camp trying to see the commandant, two light towers that are placed almost exactly like those at Woodstock, a stage that looks slightly the same, sound work by Hanley, thousands of kids all trying to be on stage with the performers, and if you are in an upper class rock festival area, you get to have the pleasure of having road vultures work as your security men, etc., etc.
Now, if you put all this together, hype it up through advertising, rumor, whatever, you will have what we had up in Toronto. 
Also, almost as predictable as the constant shouts for more (an encore is generally always given by the group as a regular part of their act) you have the stigma known as the gate crasher. Every festival has them, and every festival generally succeeds in deterring these people's attempts.
In Toronto, the practice of gate crashing had reached its organized best. An organization known as the May 4 Movement organized the international gate crash at the Toronto festival. As was to be expected, security and gate crashing didn't mix. About 27 people were arrested, many injured by the police who used horses and wrestling, they had no guns in their holsters, and very few seemed to have clubs.
Many people did get in, but the hassle that derived from the mess to make it a futile and needless waste of blood and energy.
One really good thing that did result from this excess of people (about 2,000 to 4,000) in the stadium area on the outside was the organization by the Grateful Dead of free concerts over in Coronation Park. At one point it was estimated that about 5,000 people were at this free festival.
After the continued hassle with security forces and whatnot, the promoters of the festival seemed to think that it would be cool to make this festival an imitation of the Woodstock nation festival created last year.
So what they did during the act changes was play through the huge sound speakers the Woodstock album. This really made everybody happy and gay. I mean here we were in the middle of a rock festival, so why not make believe that we have gone back in time and are at Woodstock, I mean what's the difference if we think we all can dig ourselves and how cool we really are?
Anyway, after suffering through all this pretense and inane tripe, we had nothing left to really enjoy except the pure essence of anything like this - music.
So no matter what anybody tells you about how cool and far out it was up in Toronto, it was about as far from Woodstock as anything could ever be.
At Woodstock the people were together, the music was free and easy, the grass and woods were wet and soft, the pastures stank with cow shit, the peace officers actually kept the peace, and the whole world was watching.
At the Festival Express in Toronto, we had thousands of small groups digging the shit out of each other, but nobody else; no togetherness whatsoever, music which cost plenty, security which was absurd, horseshit from the horses used by the police in crowd control, plastic grass on the field and an asphalt track if you were lucky, and very few people seemed to care what was happening at Toronto, that is until violence occurred, and we all know what violence freaks this country has for its respected citizenry.
The children of the technocracy had once again had a meeting, only this time they numbered only 20,000 and they blew it. [ -- ] negative charge from the people inhabiting the counter-culture and what ensued was sad but true. The only thing that keeps us together as a culture right now is our music, and the only thing that kept Toronto from being a real waste of time and energy was the music.
Music is what they had all come to hear and music is what they heard. It flowed from the delicately balanced sound machines perched high atop towers entangled in a maze of electrical wire.
This high energy event had cost the promoters almost $500,000 in talent fees. The array of talent that showed and played still [ -- ]
There were many moments in this two day montage of musical mania. Much of what happened musically is blurred after the passage of a couple of hours. Yet, those moments that do survive are ones which will survive for a long time in one's memory.
The "New Riders of The Purple Sage" made a rare and very successful appearance. This group is composed of members of the Grateful Dead and some Garcia and Mickey Hart.
Garcia was an absolute joy playing his steel pedal guitar. Especially on the steel pedal version of Saint Stephen.
This group should prove to be a method of perpetrating [sic] one of the finest groups on the American scene. The Grateful Dead have been making faint noises of splitting up. At least it seems that Pigpen is no longer with the group. That distance which can be seen in such groups is appearing within the Dead and yet they play on, and will do so for a long time under the guise of the Grateful Dead or the New Riders of the Purple Sage.
As for the Dead, their moments in this concert will last for a long time. The images of Garcia flailing the notes from his guitar with Phil Lesh pumping away on his bass and all the other Dead meshing together for one final flurry of "Turn On Your Love Light" are burned on a brain already numbed with fatigue, dope, and constant music.
After the furious conclusion of the Dead set we had the harsh folk/western/country sound of the Band. The high point of the Band set came when the group launched into a version of "The Weight". Garth Hudson the mountain organist preambled this song with a ten minute off key/on key organ solo. Robbie Robertson's guitar work improves with age and experience.
The other memorable set came from the newly reformed Traffic. Long since the first demise of Traffic we have seen Steve Winwood in a number of roles. He has coupled with Blind Faith, and Ginger Baker's Air Force, but he has found his way home again with his reaffirmation of faith in his old group, Traffic. Minus Dave Mason, Traffic as it stands now contains Chris Wood and Jim Capabaldi.
The set started out on a rough note, namely Wood playing the electric piano familiar to Mason. But then the group came together with Winwood's vocals bouncing off the people and walls of the stadium.
Of particular interest was the guitar work done so little by Winwood. Always an underestimated guitarist, Winwood ranks up there with the best, his guitar is gentle and his riffing calculated. His sounds are flowing, gentle and well-meaning, and seemed to stop the fatigue-worn crowd from squirming and make them just sort of sit back and let the music bathe them in a night purple glow of thought and sense.
As far as the music goes, the Festival Express was the success it had claimed it would be. If it hadn't been for the people the whole affair would have really put anyone's head in a fine, fine place.

(by Joe Fernbacher, from the Spectrum, Buffalo NY, 2 July 1970)

Thanks to Dave Davis. (Lovelight from Calgary 7/4/70)

Mar 23, 2018

October 4, 1970: Winterland Ballroom


The San Francisco sound is alive and well and living in, you guessed it, San Francisco. One might think that a place so totally saturated with rock and roll would finally tire of it and move on to other things. Hardly. The very fact of that saturation seems to be perpetuating the mode and redefining the mold.
Witness the opening of a new rock ballroom, Winterland, right in the middle of the city, not far from Bill Graham's Fillmore West. The Winterland debut bill featured the progenitors of San Francisco musical essence: Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service, groups not exactly new on the scene.
Probably everyone in San Francisco who has thought of grass as other than that green stuff you are supposed to keep off of has seen them half a dozen times. But the head count for the two nights was more than 15,000 with a turnaway mob of about 5400.
Winterland is the first solo venture of promoter Paul Baratta, recently and significantly a Graham associate. Baratta has learned his lessons well. And some of them have been rather expensive. He was put in charge of the Los Angeles shows at the Olympic Auditorium earlier this year.
[ . . . . ]
Winterland is a sprawling hall with an audience accustomed to rock shows, comfortable in the crush of people and sophisticated enough in its musical tastes to settle for nothing less than excellence. It makes a Los Angeles audience, which gets frenzied over the musically impoverished likes of Grand Funk Railroad and the Iron Butterfly, look like Philistines.
Winterland has a health-food concession in the balcony section, and popcorn and sandwiches are sold downstairs for the less demanding. The sound is excellent from just about any place in the hall. Security is handled by an inside "peace patrol" and outside by a few special service San Francisco police.
The debut show also was the first San Francisco ballroom scene to be broadcast live over television and in quadraphonic sound over two FM radio stations.
Winterland is going to be stiff competition for Graham and the Fillmore. In the first place, Graham's shows usually are more expensive. And it isn't hard to imagine the politics that must be going on to snag the bookings. Graham can use his Fillmore East in New York as a wedge, declining to book any act that chooses to play Winterland in San Francisco. But then he may find himself out of the money if the act is big enough.
With the Family Dog on the great highway out of business, Graham has been running free in San Francisco. Now he is faced with a real rival - and one to whom he has taught all the secrets.
The competition is breathing new life into San Francisco rock.

(by Kathy Orloff, Chicago Sun-Times News Service, from the Philadelphia Inquirer, 18 October 1970) 

* * *  


LOS ANGELES - The "San Francisco Sound" is a phrase that has been used frequently over the last several years to lump together a group of bands who live and play in and around S.F. It was the first geographic designation given to a particular kind of music - the "Motown Sound" was generated out of a record company, more than from the city of Detroit itself.
Since the surfacing of the San Francisco Sound, there have been several claims to geographic excellence, among them the Boston Sound, most notable for its publicity and total lack of any musical content.
San Francisco has endured - grown with the times, kept its integrity, continued to supply its audiences with top entertainment - good live shows and fine recordings. Seeing the Grateful Dead recently in S.F., I was reminded of several of the elements that have contributed to the success of the bands up north.

The Dead was probably the first of the San Francisco bands. They were scuffling around with Ken Kesey in the days of the early Acid Tests, playing at parties, benefits, and in the ballrooms. Jerry Garcia, their lead guitar player, is credited as "spiritual adviser" on Jefferson Airplane's first album with Grace Slick, "Surrealistic Pillow." His fine pedal steel guitar can be heard on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Teach Your Children."
The Grateful Dead are better today than they ever have been. Their show at the opening of the Winterland Ballroom was as fine an example of musical compatibility as ever I have heard.
The songs themselves were topnotch, both melodically and lyrically, and unlike so many of the overamplified groups hammering away at audiences today, they could actually be heard and understood. Like most of the San Francisco bands, they are not intimidated by acoustic instruments. They suit the instruments to the songs, rather than the other way around.
At one point during "I Know You Rider," they actually stopped playing for a phrase or two, letting the vocal harmonies, tight and strong, carry the song. The 7,500 people in the audience were quiet, and when the number was through, let up a tremendous yell of appreciation for the group whom they must have seen dozens of times. San Francisco audiences are not bored by their groups, because their groups are not boring. Among other things, they recognize the difference between live situations and recording in the studio, and plan accordingly.

While the Grateful Dead serve as a superb example of San Francisco music, each of the groups has its own particular style. The Dead have a more countrified flavor than Jefferson Airplane, which frequently tends toward more folk and blues sounds. The Airplane is another example of incredibly good musicianship coupled with a great sense of theater and of the absurd.
The Airplane's latest album, "Volunteers," is their best to date. The album recently released by lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bass player Jack Casady, titled "Hot Tuna," is one of the best acoustic blues albums of the last five years. And rhythm guitarist Paul Kantner, who writes much of the Airplane's best material, has an album of his own coming out shortly which promises to be extraterrestrial.
The Youngbloods have become much the S.F. band, even though they are transplants from New York. Credence Clearwater, which insists on its Berkeley base, is also immediately identifiable, but is one of the few S.F. groups that depends so heavily on one leader. Quicksilver Messenger Service and It's A Beautiful Day continue to enhance the flavor of the locale's reputation, although it is rumored that Quicksilver has broken up.

(by Kathy Orloff, Chicago Sun-Times News Service, from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 29 October 1970)

* * *


WINTERLAND, S.F. - If you're going to open a new ballroom in San Francisco, there's no better way to do it than to call upon the three top San Francisco bands to come put on a show. Paul Baratta, being an alumnus of the Bill Graham organization, went one step further and had the opening of Winterland (an existing facility, formerly used on occasion by Graham but now being run exclusively by Baratta) telecast over educational TV. Sound was carried by two (count 'em, two) radio stations. Both nights (Sunday and Monday) found a capacity crowd (7500) to enjoy music at its peak.
The music of the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and the Quicksilver Messenger Service is, or should be, well known to all, and it is way past the point of doing critical analysis of their respective styles. Having seen all three groups at various locations around the country, the only point to be made is that San Francisco music just seems to sound much better in San Francisco. If Baratta can keep his level of booking high, there's no reason why San Francisco can't once again support two major ballrooms. If nothing else, Winterland may give agents an alternative to the Cow Palace!

(by A.R., from Cash Box, 17 October 1970)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

See also: 

Mar 22, 2018

1968: Jazz vs. Rock


"I mean jazz, man. You know, that's where it's at. I mean, you know where I'm at. It's jazz."
With this jumble of half-sung, almost too-hip phrases, Stevie Winwood, leader of Traffic, begins and ends an instrumental piece, "Giving to You."
It's not jazz in the sense of long, improvised solos working out a musical theme, but it is closer to jazz than most of the Traffic's repertoire.
Traffic generally is considered a rock or pop band. But Winwood indicates he also leans toward a different bag - one which has not been considered remotely similar to Top 40 material since the '30s and '40s.
Now, however, one of the major controversies in music circles is whether pop and jazz actually are merging.
West Coast critic Ralph Gleason believes they are, calling it "a natural musical and sociological development and there is no reason to expect it to get any less intense. Rather, expect it to increase."
Another view is expressed by Nat Hentoff. He contends that because the "core of identity" of jazz comes from black artists, "the new pop, while sometimes provocative, is not deeply nor directly enough related to the growth of black consciousness."
Both arguments, of course, are highly subjective, but there are indications that jazz (which Bob Dylan once maintained never "appealed to the younger generation") is starting to heavily influence some rock groups, as well as some rock music making inroads into jazz.
The Grateful Dead's concerts are almost totally improvised. Jefferson Airplane's crew acknowledges debts to John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk. Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton, once with The Cream, have been strongly influenced by jazzmen. Kaleidoscope sometimes sounds like an avant-garde jazz group.
Meanwhile, jazzmen are crossing over to rock territory.
Hugh Masakela made a hit of "Grazing in the Grass." Long-haired vibist Gary Burton not only looks like a rock musician, he often plays with a rock group. Jeremy Steig and the Satyrs are almost as near to jazz as to rock. Gabor Szabo, who believes "Jazz is dead," does jazz renditions of pop tunes. Charles Lloyd's pitch to the new generation is a new record, "Love-In," recorded live in the Fillmore Auditorium.
The growing appeal of jazz music to rock-oriented young audiences is evident in the successful billing of some jazz groups at San Francisco ballrooms: Don Ellis, Cannonball Adderley, Count Basie, Cecil Taylor, Buddy Rich, Thelonius Monk, Roland Kirk.
In addition, one of the new albums to be released through the Beatles' new company, Apple, will be one by the Modern Jazz Quartet.
Naturally, purists like to think that forays by jazz musicians into the rock realm are purely for commercial reasons.
"Musically rock 'n' roll hasn't influenced jazz, jazz has influenced rock 'n' roll," Lionel Hampton said in an interview in Down Beat magazine.
Charles Tolliver, however, thinks "rock 'n' roll has had a very strong influence on jazz. Of course, the roots are close." Pianist Herbie Hancock feels this influence has been "healthy." So does Gary Burton: "I dig rock myself, and I think my experience with it has helped me."
Says Don Ellis, whose "Electric Bath" enjoys some popularity among young listeners, "There's a certain affinity between the things I'm doing and rock. We're both interested in rhythm."
Chris Connor comments, "Rock hasn't hurt jazz one bit. A lot of jazz musicians are incorporating that sound - Bud Shank, Ramsey Lewis - and I'm glad to see them make it. Actually, there are some good sounds in rock."
Down Beat, the staid, traditional jazz magazine, apparently agrees. It reviews rock records and even uses some pop artists on its covers.
Jazz magazine has added "Pop" to its title and every issue strives to include something about the fusion of the two forms. Eric Clapton, for instance, told a Jazz & Pop interviewer:
"Right now there's such a close affinity. Apart from volume, there isn't a lot of difference between Gary Burton and a good rock group. Larry Coryell - he plays a lot of runs about the same as I play. You know, his simple ones. I can't play all those things that he does. But he can play the things that I do. And he does."
Important jazz influences still are largely centered in England and San Francisco. As music critic Philip Elwood puts it: "The San Francisco sound in electronic music holds much the same position, compared to the commercial pop-Top 30 music, that jazz held for so long during the Hit Parade-Tin Pan Alley era of popular music."
The Grateful Dead, one of the innovators of the San Francisco sound, is also one of the rock bands furthest into jazz. The group uses two drummers, allowing for complex rhythm patterns, and every set is almost complete improvisation.
The group's songs no longer are constructed around lyrics, but around musical themes, as is jazz. Yet it maintains the high volume and social appearance, both associated with rock music.
The Dead and The Cream are the best examples so far of how close rock musicians can come to jazz. Jazz is more complex than rock and financially less rewarding, so few other groups have abandoned their thing for jazz music.
Still, the line between the two musics is increasingly blurred, mainly because rock musicians have become more proficient and like the challenge of jazz music.
The popularity of what is called rock music is beginning to support a lot of musicians who like to think of themselves as jazzmen. What remains to be seen is whether the cohabitation will one day produce a new kind of music, an exciting amalgam of rock and jazz music.

(by Geoffrey Link, Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate, from the Baltimore Sun, 19 December 1968)

See also: (Ralph Gleason 1967)

Mar 20, 2018

February 5, 1969: Kansas City Interview


4:15 P.M., February 5th

Phil Lesh, Tom Constaten, and Mickey Hart were having an early dinner in the motel restaurant when I found them. They didn't know I was coming. I had been informed earlier (by a Top-40 bigwig) that the Dead had refused interviews to local television and newspapers, and I hadn't been able to reach their manager by phone, so nothing was guaranteed. Suspecting they might be more apt to talk to a freak than some crew-cut cat from Channel 4, I introduced myself and told them what I was after. All three nodded a yes, and Phil said, "Sure, sit down." They bought me a coffee and I began with a question about the evening's concert. Mainly, how did the Grateful Dead feel about playing second bill to a group like the Iron Butterfly?
"We don't give a shit," said Phil, but he sounded a little disgusted. "How do you feel about it?"
I assured him that I thought it was wrong, but it was to be expected. The Who have been billed under Herman's Hermits, the Yardbirds under Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Hendrix under the Monkees. It's always that way. Phil wanted to know why.
"Well, you know," I started, trying to break it to him easy-like, "you guys haven't had A Hit Record."
"What have the Iron Butterfly done?" he demanded. "I've never heard anything by the Iron Butterfly."
"Never heard of it. Who are the Iron Butterfly? What do they do? Thud-thud."
I thought that answered my question pretty good.
Next question: why were the new members added? Did the Dead purposely set out to find an additional drummer and organist, or did it just happen that way? They sort of corrected me, pointing out that Mickey and Tom weren't really 'new members,' having been with the band for some time. But anyway, it just happened that way. Mickey told me his story.
It seems that one night Mickey walked into a place where the Dead were doing a gig, "stoned out of my mind," and registered that what was going down was something he wanted in on. He asked to sit in, was allowed to, and has been with the band ever since. Fine.
Writing? All write. Singing? "We all sing, but Jerry and Pigpen do it the best."
We talked of stage acts. Whereas many groups (the Jimi Hendrix Experience, in particular) seem to feel that if the audience isn't reacting heavily, the thing to do is to get showy (freak out!), the Dead think that the way to liven up a slow crowd is to play better. A better idea, from the Grateful Dead.
Did the group, or any members of the group, have any plans or desires to make a record with musicians outside of the group, something along the lines of Super Session? Phil said if they did decide to do that type of thing, it would be a very low-volume record, and not built up and blown out of all proportion. He thinks most of that that has been done so far is "a lot of pretentious shit."
My primary intention in coming to the Dead was to find out what side one of their latest record is all about. To my surprise nobody seemed to know. The fact that no member of the group could come anyplace near giving me a reason or a meaning was a tremendous joke to them. With titles and sub-titles like "Critical Envelopement" and "New Potatoe Caboose," I had thought, "Ah, there must be more to this than meets the ear; this is Very Deep Stuff." Apparently I'll never know how deep. One reason for the vagueness is that different people wrote different parts at different times. It just happened that it all fit together nicely. But the lyrical content was a mystery to all.
I did learn of one section, "The Faster We Go the Rounder We Get." Bob Weir wrote it about a friend of the band (Neal Cassady?) who used to drive their bus and carry the equipment around. Soon after the song was written, the friend died, and the song became all the more significant. But as to whether the driver friend is the subject of the entire piece, I couldn't say. Neither could the Dead. At any rate, nobody know exactly why "the boy had to die."
I was just getting to the really hot questions, questions on drugs, the draft, the Revolution, when a man named West came in to the restaurant and to our table and told the boys that it was time to film an interview for good old Channel 4. Or 9, or whatever it was. They must have changed their minds. So I had to split. Phil told me to come back and talk some more after the night's show. I asked him if 1:00 would be okay, and he said that would be fine.

1:30 A.M., February 6th

I was a little late.
The Grateful Dead were all sound asleep, or at least the lights were off. I knocked on the door of what I thought was Phil's room. Nobody kept answering, so I kept knocking until somebody did. The somebody finally got out of bed and pulled back the curtain and gave me a look that would kill a mule. I sort of ambled off.
The light was on in the manager's room. The manager was West. He told me the Dead were getting up at ten and leaving at ten-thirty, and they probably wouldn't have any time to finish the interview.

9:50 A.M., February 6th

I sat outside the Dead's motel rooms in my car, the local underground radio station turned all the way up in an effort to draw out one of the boys in the band.
Phil showed and I caught him. He had a few stops to make, then we'd go to the restaurant and join Jerry Garcia for breakfast. The first stop was a familiar one. We entered and Phil said to last night's angry face, "This is Harv. He was interviewing us last night."
The angry face was Bear, the road manager. Bear the road manager said, "Yeah, I know. He was here last night knocking on the door while I was balling some chick and I almost punched him right in the nose."
I apologized, but he still wasn't too happy about it. Phil realized it and we moved right along to the next stop, another room on the other end of the sidewalk, where Phil picked up his hat and said goodbye to a groupie with a headache. Then to the restaurant.
Mostly we just more or less chatted, there not really being time to carry on with the interview. They told me that the next album might include "Turn On Your Lovelight," which the Dead opened up with at the concert the night before. The show'd consisted of "Lovelight," a pause, side one of Anthem of the Sun, which led into another long highly improvisational segment, which led into side two of Anthem of the Sun, which led into and concluded with the "and I bid you goodnight" chorus from "A Very Cellular Song" by the Incredible String Band. Anyway, I took some pictures, and a flashcube went off all by itself in my hand and that amazed everyone no end. The waitress talked to Phil about the length of his hair, and Jerry read the funnies.
I had to be at traffic court at 10:30, and they were supposedly taking off for St. Louis any minute, so we did our goodbyes and I made a mad drive to get to court on time.
Just a few blocks (and fewer seconds) from the motel, I flashed that I had neglected to ask an all-important question: Were the Grateful Dead still friends with the Rock & Roll Double Bubble Trading Card Company of Philadelphia after their big hit with that nasty line, "Well, the Grateful Dead just leave me cold?"
I figured they didn't give a shit.

(by Harv Tawney, from Crawdaddy no. 22, May 1969)

Mar 15, 2018

1965: The Warlocks (Massachusetts)

Cash Box ad, June 5, 1965

NEW YORK - The Warlocks, the group that introduced the Temper Tantrum dance in a Boston night club, has recorded a single, "Temper Tantrum," for Decca.
The dance, introduced May 12 at the Forum, a Hub discotheque, was shown in film clip form on "The Tonight Show." It has received exposure on Boston radio and TV stations and in the local press.
Dick Jacobs, Decca a&r man, recorded the disk in Boston. Charlotte Holicker, one of the dance's inventors, explained the dance on "The Mike Douglas Show" Friday (28).

(from Billboard, 5 June 1965)

* * * 

BOSTON - Alan Ross of Decca Records may be responsible for a new dance known as the Temper Tantrum, by the Warlocks, ready for release on Decca. It grew out of a session at Boston's Forum with most of the record distributors present. Alan secured tape of music and film of the dance and sent it to New York. Presto! a new record and perhaps a new dance. Hub dancer Charlotte Hollicker will show it to Mike Douglas and Patrice Munsel on the Douglas Show soon.

(from Billboard, 12 June 1965)

* * *


NEW YORK — Decca Records has rushed into release a single record based on the new dance, “Temper Tantrum.” The dance was introduced last month at The Forum, a Boston discotheque, that had invited the Hub press, radio, television and the general public to the first public demonstration of this new “tension relieving” dance conceived by Charlotte and Joe Holicker. The room was jammed to capacity as the dancers stamped their feet and gyrated, as a small child in a fit of temper, in time to the music, as the patrons joined in and a new dance craze was born.
The next day the Boston press and radio-TV carried the message that this was the dance to do in Boston and the surrounding areas. “The Tonight Show” heard about the excitement generated by the dance and showed a film clip of the steps of the “tantrum” to a national viewing audience. At the same time it was brought to the attention of A&R staffer Dick Jacobs, who immediately flew to Boston to record “Temper Tantrum” with The Warlocks, the musical group that first introduced the dance.
The Decca record was cut, mastered and shipped all in the period of three days to keep pace with the national excitement being generated by the fad. Charlotte Holicker made a guest appearance on “The Mike Douglas Show” this past Friday (28) to tell the story of the dance to the show’s vast syndicated audience. Many national publications are now planning spreads on the dance.
Decca’s full promo forces are going all-out to garner similar reaction in all areas to “Temper Tantrum” as happened when first introduced in Boston.

(from Cash Box, 5 June 1965) 

from the Record Reviews:

WARLOCKS (Decca 31806)
THE TEMPER TANTRUM (2:25) - Easy driving beat behind smooth vocals on this outing make for possible clicking with  dance crowds. The free moving rhythm could connect with good sales and spins resulting.
I’LL GO CRAZY (2:46) - Pounding beat on this rock number.

The Temper Tantrum (by Joseph & Charlotte Holicker; A-side)
I'll Go Crazy (by James Brown; B-side)

October 1965...

Phil Lesh: "I was browsing in a record store and found a single by a band called the Warlocks, on Columbia. I brought the bad news to the guys, and we started to bandy new names about...but nothing really sounded right, and we just couldn't decide. Meanwhile, we were recording some demo songs for a local record label, and we needed not to be the Warlocks anymore. So we agreed on a temporary name - the Emergency Crew - for our first recording sessions. What on earth to call ourselves?..."

Jerry Garcia: "Our name was originally the Warlocks, [but] we discovered that there was a band back east or something like that recording under that name, and we decided, 'Oh, no, we can't have that. We can't be confused with somebody else.' So we were trying to think up names..."

Mar 8, 2018

1967: Album Review


Rating: *****

This album is possibly the finest yet by a group in the general area of white blues-rock. Those who prefer another sort of rock may disagree with the Grateful Dead's predilection for the blues, but no one could deny after hearing the record that the band is superb.
Jazz fans should find this LP a good introduction to some of the better rock music.
The Dead began, three men strong, as a jug band, and Minglewood and Viola Lee are from the repertoire of the old Gus Cannon Memphis Jug Stompers, best known for their Walk Right In. However, the Dead's versions of these tunes are a far cry from the Cannon sound.
Viola Lee is a 10-minute track with an unusual accelerando middle section. Toward the end McKernan's organ is flying, and the whole band is in such an orbit that the return to the initial tempo for the final vocal choruses is a shock.
Most vocals on the album are by Garcia, with a couple of significant exceptions: McKernan sings and plays harmonica on the chestnut Little Schoolgirl, and rhythm guitarist Weir sings lead on Jesse Fuller's Down the Line.
The rest of the material is in a more modern vein. In Tim Rose's superbly ominous Morning Dew, an excellent vocal is backed by lovely instrumental figures. The arranged nature of the instrumental breaks and leads for this and Cold Rain and Snow, while retaining the spontaneity of the usual blues band, demonstrates a way out of some ruts. Most of the originals on the album are collaborations, with Lesh doing much of the catalytic work; Garcia said that Cream Puff is the only song used by the group that he wrote by himself.
Sometimes the Dead's lyrics are written strictly for simplicity, avoiding "significance."
"The lyrics are nonsensical and banal," one of the group told a Ramparts reporter. The hit tune The Golden Road is noteworthy in this respect. Although performance is always predominant with this group, lyrics like those for Cold Rain and Snow certainly tell a story.
Instrumentally, Garcia's unusually round-sounding guitar lead, the full-toned organ of McKernan, and the very active bass lines of Lesh produce a powerful effect. Weir and Sommers are also excellent musicians, but greater than anything else is the unity of effect these men produce. In many rock bands the listener is tempted to imagine how much better the band would sound if only he could substitute some personal favorite of his. This feeling never occurs regarding this group, nor do people talk much about its stars or its outstanding members; it's just the Grateful Dead.
When the band first was approached about recording, Garcia and the others felt that the Dead was simply not a recording group.
"I don't believe the live sound, the live excitement, can be recorded," Garcia told Newsweek. In spite of these doubts, a superb record has been created. Engineer Dave Hassinger traveled to San Francisco to hear the group live several times before planning the date, and he has captured the sound of the band wonderfully well.
There are all sorts of rock or electric bands. Some emphasize melody, some stress poetic lyrics, some are more like jazz groups with a little singing added. Some are folk-derived, some are 90 per cent Negro blues influenced. Indian music, Nashville c&w, and countless other forms have their effect.
You simply find your way to the bands that derive from what you're used to and go on from there. But along with the recent Beatles albums, the Byrds, the Lovin' Spoonful, Paul Butterfield, and Bob Dylan, I find the Grateful Dead outstanding, and I especially recommend them to jazz fans.

(by Edward Spring, from Down Beat, 21 September 1967)

See also:

Mar 7, 2018

Cream / Jefferson Airplane: Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 1968

Impressions of Cream and Jefferson Airplane

The Jefferson Airplane and Cream appeared not long ago at Brandeis University in concerts a month apart. The concerts will be discussed here conjointly because they afford interesting and natural comparisons and because the rock of these two groups is representative of much currently important popular music. (My opening remarks are directed primarily at the jazz listener trying to ease his way into rock; those who have been digging it right along won't find much that is startling or revelatory.)
[ . . . ]
Maybe it wise to start with what won't be heard in contemporary rock - rhythmic complexity, for one thing. This has always been one of the salient ingredients of jazz, and it is lacking in rock, which for the most part is in 4/4 or free time, usually the former. Another generally missing factor is dynamic shading: rock is either loud or soft, usually the former, and until on-the-spot engineering techniques get a good deal more sophisticated - which they better had in the near future - the subtleties of rock have to be conveyed by the harmonics and voicings employed.
This brings up another point. By "loud," I do not mean Roy Eldridge loud or Count Basie loud. I mean you-have-never-heard-such-sounds-in-your-life loud, an effect that most of the recording studios minimize and that can only be apprehended in live performances. The rock musicians are into total, environmental sound in a way that players like Archie Shepp or Pharaoh Sanders can only approximate; this means that a first-time listener will not pick up on most of what he heard, because he is not used to differentiating sounds at that volume. It means that even the habitual listener may be partially deafened after a performance, sometimes for hours. Whether or not to subject yourself to such temporary or permanent discomfort is an individual decision. It is too easy to say, however, that rock is so loud that nothing of beauty or worth can be produced. That was said about certain other forms of music familiar to most Down Beat readers.
[ . . . ]
Cream and Jefferson are comparable in several ways . . . The first similarity is that both are composed of fine musicians - and are instrumentally perhaps the two most together outfits now playing.
The comparisons of virtuosity extend further.
Casady and Bruce are the only two interesting electric bassists I have ever heard. Likewise, few rock drummers, however dextrous, extend their rhythmic conceptions much beyond symmetrically divided 4/4; Baker and Dryden are exceptions. (Terry Clarke, John Handy's former drummer, now with the Fifth Dimension, and the Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts are others; significantly, all these percussionists have jazz roots.) Kaukonen and Clapton are among the handful of gifted guitarists, technically and conceptually.
Clapton in particular has few or no technical equals, in jazz or rock. He has to be heard to be believed. Kaukonen's chops are a cut below, although I wouldn't want to have to live on the difference, but he more than compensates for this - he has advanced harmonic understanding; a pronounced lyrical bent unusual among hard rock players; willingness to take improvisational chances; and, most important, the wit not only to know where he is going with a phrase but also how he got there.
Even Clapton, good as he is, could profit from studying Kaukonen's phrasing. Too often, rock guitarists concentrate on climaxing a sequence, building up to it with staccato bursts that the culmination echoes and expands upon. Kaukonen's lines, like those of a first-rate jazz soloist, make sense in and of themselves. For sheer power and impact, Clapton is close to nonpareil; he overwhelms. For sustained musical interest, Kaukonen is the most compelling; he fascinates.

A final note on the Airplane, before proceeding to the Brandeis concerts: their last album, After Bathing at Baxter's, seems to me the most unified and cohesive record yet produced by an American group - indeed, it demonstrates the kind of thematic and musical oneness spuriously attributed to the last two Beatles efforts. The latter are sides with brilliant songs on them; Baxter's is One Thing. The Airplane is currently out of favor, for the sock-it-to-me approach is in and the insinuate-it-to-me approach is out, for the moment anyway, and for this reason, and a couple of others, the Airplane concert was a disappointment. Its members did their songs (White Rabbit, Somebody to Love, etc.), but they didn't do their thing.
There was little collective improvisation, and except for some fine Kaukonen, little individual improvisation. Except, too, for Gracie Slick, who never seems to do a song the same way twice. There was a further problem in that the voice mikes could not compete with the amps, and much of her and Balin's work was lost. She has great range, firm tone, presence, emotional commitment.
Miss Slick is also a fine improvisor of counterpoint, as, to a lesser extent, are Balin and Kantner. Consequently, the Airplane employs more complex vocal harmonies than probably any American rock group I know of.
A good example in the Brandeis concert was Won't You Try/Saturday Afternoon, two separate songs with the same chords (except for a couple of substitutions), sung together. It started with Balin and Miss Slick on Won't and Kantner sliding in with part of Saturday. When Saturday became dominant, Balin and Kantner duetting on it, Miss Slick began running some astonishing changes on Won't. It ended very free, with the words of both songs being interchanged by the three, so that the listener had trouble knowing which was which - which, of course, was the intention.
So that was nice. And Miss Slick did White Rabbit, a beautiful, bolero-rhythm exercise in crescendo that should never stop because it hurts so good. Miss Slick strayed profitably from the recorded version: the first four bars were sung on the afterbeat, providing a nice pulsation when contrasted with the bolero rhythm by Dryden, and she finished with a bluesy trail-off instead of the final held note on the record.
Kaukonen sang an unnamed, funky blues (he should have more vocal space; he's a fine blues singer) on which he made good use of his wawa pedal in accompaniment. His solos throughout the concert were consistently rewarding, but they and Miss Slick's vocal work were about the only things that were.
The Airplane group at its best is an improvisational group, though in an artfully controlled way; when it does not improvise, it is merely good. Somebody to Love, It's No Secret, Funny Cars. Yeah, nice. But we've heard them.

The Cream concert hardly could have begun less fortunately than it did. Orpheus, a group highly touted by a recording industry flack as representative of the "Bosstown Sound" (which, FYI, does not exist), was uninteresting and offensive. (I figured out about halfway through their set that they were really a plugged-in - but hardly switched-on - version of the Kingston Trio. Same dull harmony, same bad jokes, same pseudo-hipness. Feh.)
It was then announced that Cream had had airplane trouble (no pun intended) and would be "a little late." Another backup group was hurriedly imported. It did a set. Another announcement - "They're on the way." Another set.
Cream began its set at 2:15 a.m. The incredible thing was that of a sell-out crowd of 3,000 present from 8 p.m., fully 2,500 remained, for the most part placidly, until Cream arrived. Quite a tribute.
It was deserved. If anything was worth the five-hour wait, its set was. There are some groups that really should not perform live; they are displayed better in the electronic shelter of a studio. The Beatles, and maybe the Airplane at this point, are examples. For some groups, the opposite is the case, and Cream is one of these. In the first place there is the matter of volume. A trio - right? Wrong. Seven orchestras. Each of the two guitars has four amplifiers - big, five-foot-tall amplifiers. Ginger Baker's drums had to be miked very loud to compete. Cream's sound is just this side of physically tangible. It assaults, drowns, lifts, transports, and when it stops, one feels alone, insufficient somehow.
In the second place, Cream's records - which are quite good - present the group as predominantly vocal; there are very few instrumental breaks of longer than a chorus. In person, it gets the singing out of the way in a hurry and then gets down to business. This is just as well; some of the group's songs (Tales of Brave Ulysses, which it performed this night, and SWLABR, which it didn't) have memorable lyrics, but most don't, and as vocalists, Bruce is only good and Clapton adequate. As musicians, they are superb.
The group began with Ulysses, and Clapton put the gymnasium under pulsating currents of warm water with his unerringly sensitive use of the wawa pedal. Baker, here as throughout, laid down an unyielding beat, and the three got together on an accelerating coda, which is not on the album version. They followed with NSU, a deceptively simple tune . . . [The metrical reversal in the intro] was fascinating.
So was Clapton's guitar break: whines, cat meowing, other fragmentary sounds. (He owes something of his bottom-fret climaxes to B.B. King.) The solo alternated between legato runs, usually ascending, and hard-nosed chord work. Baker, who is the baddest-looking English cat I have ever seen, reminiscent of one of Dickens' innumerable low-life villains, performed an extended solo, showing strong, strong chops, and he never misses. But the solo was strangely dull. Someone sitting next to me said, "My God. It's Sing, Sing, Sing." He wasn't far off. Baker stayed almost exclusively with 16th-note divisions, done mostly on tom-toms. He plays much more complexly on records.
They did two instrumentals, a slow blues with another fine Clapton solo that switched from double-time to the original tempo a couple of times, and then an up-tempo, 16-bar blues, with Baker doing some good brush work behind a Clapton solo. I would like to describe that solo, but I can't. My notes say, "God!" That's all. I can only say that for the two minutes or 12 hours (I have no idea exactly how long it was) that Clapton soloed, I got as high up and far out as I ever have on jazz.
Then, with Clapton laying out, a freight-train blues featuring some Bruce pyrotechnics on harmonica, including a vocal-harmonica duet with himself that at its apogee found him singing an eighth-note, blowing an eighth, and so on for two or three choruses, a la Sonny Terry. It was a remarkable display, though musically not altogether rewarding. They finished the long set with Toad, an 18-bar line divided into repeated six-bar phrases, all based on one chord. A short Clapton solo and a long Baker exercise - again, mainly with 16ths - received a standing ovation.
Cream owes its repertoire to a number of sources. It does Skip James, Muddy Waters, and Robert Johnson songs. Some of its instrumentalism comes from contemporary r&b players, like Muddy Waters and B.B. King. It probably would not have been able to assimilate the blues concept without the pioneer imitative work of the Rolling Stones and Beatles. But the resulting amalgam is all Cream, and it is a moving, powerful, original sound.

(by Alan Heineman, from Down Beat, 25 July 1968)

Mar 5, 2018

September 19, 1970: Fillmore East, NYC


Fillmore East, New York City
This was the fifth engagement by the Grateful Dead at Fillmore East since the first of the year, yet every show was sold out. That's the way Grateful Dead fans are - they can't ever get enough. Even after five hours of music, they were still hollering for encores.
Recent performances by the Dead have been like a three-act play. First on the program is a rather quiet set of Marin County (where they live these days) acoustic/electric folk music. During this set, the Dead, minus one of their two drummers and plus such added friends as Dave Torbert, Marmaduke Dawson, and Dave Nelson, go through such standards as Deep Elm Blues and such contemporary material as Juggin', a Dead biography-itinerary-diary, and To Lay Me Down, a journey into the black soul-gospel where so much of today's music originated.
Act Two presents the New Riders Of The Purple Sage, with Jerry Garcia switching from acoustic guitar to pedal steel guitar and Mickey Hart replacing Bill Kreutzman on drums. The rest of the New Riders are Marmaduke Dawson, vocal and rhythm guitar; Dave Torbert, bass; and David Nelson, lead guitar and mandolin. The sound is more or less Nashville and revolves around Nelson's mandolin playing and Garcia's steel guitar. Garcia is not a traditional steel guitar man. You can forget all the country slides that have been heard so often they've become musical cliches; Garcia has made the steel guitar a creative instrument. At one point in the finale, the Rolling Stones' Honky Tonk Woman, I was looking around for the horn section only to discover that what I had heard was Jerry's steel guitar.
It should be just about time for the New Riders of The Purple Sage to do an album. They have some really fine material, especially Somebody Robbed The Glendale Train and Henry (who turns out to be a pusher spreading joy and destruction). I still find Marmaduke not as communicative a lead singer as I'd like to hear, but then I guess it's in the Nashville style to be detached from the music, and he is warmer than he was when I heard him here two months ago.

There is nothing uncommunicative about the Grateful Dead, by which I mean the original San Francisco band that closed this evening. Garcia has long been acknowledged and accepted as the founder of the San Francisco style of rock guitar playing. Sure, Jorma Kaukonen of the Airplane and some others may have taken it further, and it is also true that Jerry learned a lot from King Hendrix the First, but Hendrix is dead, long live Garcia - and if Jorma's done something good with it, at least he remembers where he got it.
Bob Weir is officially listed as rhythm guitar, but there's a lot more to Bob than that. Especially in the first act he does a lot of the singing, and there are moments of double guitar lead when it is questionable whether Garcia is leading Weir or vice-versa.
There are a great many good bassists in the business. Phil Lesh has been around longer than most, and plays as well as just about any. A bass player forms a foundation for a band that should be both a bottom layer of sound and a rhythmic assist to the drums. Bass players can get their solo breaks too, but for most of the time they belong in the background driving the band...pushing up from underneath and forward from Jimmy Blanton, Charlie Haden, and Phil Lesh.
Ron McKernan, the beloved and loveable "Pigpen," can usually be found at the piano or organ - though he's been known to assist on drums - and his harmonica work is an important fixture in today's Dead. Mainly Pigpen is a singer, a catalyst, a performer who can be counted on to get an audience in motion and emotion.
Bill Kreutzman and Mickey Hart are the drummers (individually in acts 1 & 2; in tandem for act 3). Together or separately, they are always driving and always swinging. That's the Grateful Dead. They started as Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions and worked as The Warlocks before they got where they're at today...and where they're at today is very together.

From the opening Morning Dew, it was obvious that this was to be one of those nights when the magnificence of the performance was to be surpassed only by the excitement of the audience. The Dead freak in front of me was on her feet with the first sound from her favorite band. From then on, for anything I wanted to see I would have to rise to the occasion as well.
For more than another hour, San Francisco's finest went through a whole history lesson of the music. From their folk (or neo-folk) repertoire came Bonnie Dobson's Morning Dew, Me And My Brother, and Cold Rain And Snow. From the new Workingman's Dead album came Easy Wind. From their rock and roll repertoire came Good Morning Little Schoolgirl and Not Fade Away. From Live Dead, which many consider their best album, came the whole first couple of sides: Dark Star, St. Stephen, Turn On Your Lovelight, and a couple of snatches of Feedback.
It was on Turn On Your Lovelight that Pigpen really took charge. Before he finished doing his thing the entire audience is caught up in it...clapping, dancing, singing along, screaming, shouting, involved - yes, involved. Involved with the apex of street bands that can get it together on stage at the Fillmore, at a street dance in Berkeley, at a be-in in Central Park or Golden Gate Park...just so long as the crowd is simpatico and the vibes and the drugs are right.
So after they had played for five hours (a few short breaks to attend to necessities) the crowd still screamed for more and booed when they were told they weren't getting more, only to be admonished by Pigpen: "Why don't you go home and ____?"
We finally did.

(by Joe Klee, from Down Beat, 26 November 1970)  

Mar 4, 2018

1969: Live/Dead Review


LIVE/DEAD - Rating: 2-1/2 stars
VOLUNTEERS - Rating: 4 stars

In a way, the Dead's double album is a valuable document: it's a typical set. A few moments of inspiration scattered amid more than 70 minutes of aimlessness. These are seven musicians who know their axes and know what all the others are likely to do, and can go with them. That's half the battle for an improvisation group; the other half is to improvise something of merit, and there's damn little of that here.
One has to like them - is obliged to. They were there are the beginning. Kesey, Trips Festival, Acid Test, the San Francisco Sound. (If there is one, theirs is it.) And the word on the Dead is always that they're erratic, but when they get it on, they're the best band in the world.
Damned if I've ever heard them get it on. Certainly not on record, where they've either been too hung up with electronic diddling to make music, or, as here, just not together.
From the opening seconds, it's clearly The Dead: rhythm setting up a static pattern while Garcia wanders with short, single-note, on-beat figures gradually expanding into longer lines emphasizing triplets, and creating a climax. If only those climaxes weren't so inevitable. And the first three sides of the album melt into each other, the separate tunes distinguished only by the tempo changes and the lyrics, which aren't notable. Until Lovelight, The Dead's standby, which is a gas - the only fully realized group performance on the records, everybody helping everybody else. Garcia playing his best guitar solo of the set, tough, hard drumming by Hart and Kreutzmann, insinuating bass lines by Lesh, funky vocal. Yes, yes, yes.
The last side is tighter than the first three. Nothing mindblowing, but Rev. Gary Davis' Death is effective, and the electronic play on Feedback makes some sense in spots.
I don't know; maybe this is the best band in the world. But they sure can keep a secret.

The Airplane, on the other hand, is at the very least the best band in America, and so it's difficult to rate this set. By any other standards, it's four stars and maybe more, but it's less good than Crown of Creation, and of course nothing can touch Baxter's.
Some of the songs are sensational, but there are too many throwaways: Shepherd, Farm, Turn My Life, Seasons. And the two revolutionary pieces, Together and Volunteers, while musically beautiful, are too self-congratulatory and facile. (The latter was originally titled Volunteers of America; RCA had the Airplane delete the last words from the title and the printed lyrics, though the line is sung intact at the end of the song. The printed lyrics for Together have been bowdlerized. And although the Airplane has done wonders for itself, RCA's recording techniques are still terrrible.)
But the good songs...oh my God. Frederick, in the same mood as Rejoyce, has gorgeously dense lyrics by Gracie, and she sings it brilliantly. The vocal is followed by an exciting Kaukonen guitar solo that builds to a long climax, then diminishes into a light, even 4/4 with a fine complementary piano line by Hopkins, and slides into a heavier 4/4 signaled by Casady. Crescendo and out and incredible.
Turn My Life is said, and Kaukonen's vocal is effective, but it's not a great song. Wooden Ships, conversely, is. Written by Kantner with Stills and David Crosby, it's a mournful, uncertain leave-taking of the silent dehumanized majority by the loud, musical minority. Kantner, Miss Slick, and Balin alternate the vocals, and each section slides inevitably, logically, breathtakingly into the next. At one point during some harmony, Gracie sustains the end of a verse, knifing into the next. Tear your guts out, Jim. The counterpoint at the end is typical Airplane, which is to say marvelous.
The last Slick song is perhaps the best, in terms of lyrics. Eskimo compares the vast natural forces to man's smallness; the middle verse suggests music as a possible bridge. The refrain, "But the human crowd/Doesn't mean shit to a tree" carries a double sense; the obvious, colloquial meaning, naturally, but also, "shit" makes trees grow, and why don't we acknowledge our links with nature instead of priding ourselves on our machines and sound-proofing and euphemizing our bathrooms? Another clean, sharp Slick vocal.

One of the points of reviewing these two sessions together, apart from the fact that these are the two longest-lived San Francisco bands, is that both started in more or less the same place. Kaukonen has freely admitted that his guitar style owes a great deal to Garcia's. But Miles Davis said the same thing about Ahmad Jamal, and while the Dead may have been, may even remain, a greater social presence than the Airplane, the latter has grown into a musical force that has long since outstripped its roots.

(by Alan Heineman, from Down Beat, 5 February 1970)

See also:

Mar 2, 2018

March 15-17, 1968: Carousel Ballroom

The Carousel, San Francisco

The cream of San Francisco rock - the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead - got together here for the first time in many months. Following a three-month Pacific Northwest tour, the Dead and the Airplane had returned as partners to open their own ballroom, the Carousel, in competition with Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium and Chet Helms' Avalon Ballroom.
The Dead had not played for either Graham or Helms in nearly a year, because they opposed the way most dance-concerts are conducted.
Both bands did two sets, each lasting more than an hour. Though the Airplane has by far the biggest national reputation, the Dead proved to be the stronger musicians.

Balin, in the group's early days, nearly carried the Airplane on the strength of his powerful vocals. And though the repertoire now is structured around the exceptionally versatile voice of Miss Slick, there are signs that this approach is wearing a bit thin.
Solos are longer than ever before, limiting the role of the lyrics, but the quality of playing has improved markedly. Casady is one of the finest bass players in rock - perhaps the finest - and his solos will surely wake up other groups to the fact that the bass can be more than just decoration for the lead guitar.
On one song, Casady played acoustic guitar and Balin played bass, an indication that the group is going in for more versatility.

But it was the Dead's second set that made the evening particularly important. It was one of the best sets the group has ever done in this city, and the light show, by underground filmmaker Ben Van Meter, caught the rhythm perfectly, turning the event into a total sensory experience.
In the first set, the Dead had indicated it was into something quite different from what it was doing even six months ago. At that time it was, like the Airplane, still dependent on lyrics as the basic ingredients of its songs.
Now it is the music that is important. It's more jazz than rock and aims at a peak experience instead of just a good time. On one song, McKernan, who also does fine vocals on Junior Wells' Good Mornin', Little Schoolgirl, launched into a kind of formless Joycean chant. As another forceful sound, it complemented the instruments.
The Dead has added a second drummer, Micky Hart, son of drummer Roy Hart, and new worlds of dynamics have opened up. Hart joined several months ago in New York. Sommers still seems to carry the weight in the drum solos, but Hart has excellent control.
Garcia is one of the unacknowledged greats of the rock guitar. He can make it sound like a horn and always plays as if entranced, his shaggy head wagging, his fingers fretting and picking as if they had a life of their own.
The set ended with fireworks and smoke-bombs that, in the hands of most groups, usually come off as a cheap gimmick. Not this time. Solos had built crescendo upon crescendo like layers in a foundation; each note had been wrung of the last drop of emotion. Something had to explode, and it did - literally. There followed a brief and incongruous bidding of goodnight, sung by the whole group in choir-boy fashion.
The Dead again proved that it is probably the tightest band in rock, despite the fact that there is now more improvising in its playing than ever before.

(by Geoffrey Link, from Down Beat, 27 June 1968)

* * *


Promoters traditionally have labored to avoid putting on a last-minute, hurry-up event wherein they had only a few days in which to inform the public. History says you have to have a really hot attraction to get away with this.
Another cardinal rule is not to confuse your audience with contradictory or ambiguous statements.
Both these rules were violated last month by the new series of dances at the Carousel Ballroom. The announcement of the first weekend dance was not made until Wednesday, and there was considerable confusion about prices and attractions for the Sunday night show.
Nevertheless, the hall was packed on Friday and Saturday (last night's advance was good, too) and it is a tribute to the strength of the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead that this is so.
The new series also had another asset. The Carousel is by far the best hall in San Francisco for rock groups in almost every imaginable way.
The appearance of the Airplane and the Dead ran directly into the U.S. debut of the new British group, Traffic, which flew from London to open this weekend at the Fillmore-Winterland fresh from the publicity of its first album and the underground reputation generated by the British LP. In addition the Avalon had a unique bill with veteran blues singer Son House, jazzman John Handy, and the new Blood, Sweat & Tears group.
So the Airplane and the Dead's success at the Carousel is doubly impressive. Next weekend Chuck Berry appears there along with the Grateful Dead.
Traffic, which is led by and features Stevie Winwood, formerly with Spencer Davis, is one of those British three-man groups and it has had an extraordinary advance press campaign. In some ways this is too bad because the group really is not that overwhelming in its impact. Winwood is a fine singer and a good musician (best at the organ for my taste) and Chris Wood, who doubles on flute and tenor and bass, is also a gifted instrumentalist and a flute player of sensitivity and great lyric strength. The drummer, Jim Capaldi, swings, plays interesting things, and is steady as a rock. So this is a good group and after it claws its way through the myths and symbols of the rock world, it ought to be a highly successful one.
It's just that the band is not overwhelming in the context of San Francisco and a weekend with the Airplane, the Dead, and Blood, Sweat & Tears. The Cream was. I found them one of the very best of all rock bands and a combination of extraordinary musicianship, good voices, and outstanding songs.
The Carousel now has the bandstand facing the cafeteria section. There is good sound everywhere, ample space to sit and listen, and room to dance. Ben Van Meter's North American Ibis Alchemical Co. light show was interesting and effective, and the two bands played magnificently. There is no question but what these two groups inspire one another and to hear their lead guitarists - Jerry Garcia and Jorma Kaukonen - play on the same evening is pure pleasure.
[ . . . ]

(by Ralph Gleason, from the "On the Town" column, San Francisco Chronicle, 18 March 1968)

Thanks to

Mar 1, 2018

June 13, 1969: Selland Arena, Fresno CA


At Selland Arena last night while the Grateful Dead was blowing everyone's mind with hard-driving acid rock, a teenage girl behind the stage was dancing.
This hippie chick, if you will, was twirling, pirouetting and carving great arches with her arms, and it was beautiful. She was simply grooving, doing her own thing, and everyone understood.
Her reaction to the primordial quality of one of San Francisco's best-known bands was simultaneously compulsive and spontaneous, old and new.
The Grateful Dead, after all, produces a sound that is simple and ancient. The Old Testament speaks of making a "joyful noise unto the Lord." Dancing out one's emotions is an impulse older perhaps even than the Bible.
Twang, twang, twang, ker-chunk. Leap, twirl, trist, ker-plop.
Nothing new or complicated about that.
Yet the sound of San Francisco rock is, of course, as new as tomorrow. And if you listen to it carefully - never an easy exercise and impossible in Selland Arena - it includes much more than a simple one-two-three pulse-beat rhythm.

The Grateful Dead sound is an outgrowth of Negro blues of the funkiest sort, standard rock-'n-roll, country-western of the type Gene Autry never knew, and finally the mind-expanding influence of ragas from India.
Ragas foster psychedelic improvisation, and this is where The Grateful Dead excel. Particularly good were leader Jerry Garcia's rapid runs on the guitar and a couple of numbers which featured Pig Pen, also known as Ron McKernan, on the organ and bongos.
Phil Leash, who sometimes goes by the name of "Reddy Kilowatt," was good on the bass, and Bob Weir played a mean rhythm guitar. Organist Tom Constanten and drummers Micky Hart and Bill Kruetzman at times expended more energy than PG&E.
The Grateful Dead is an outgrowth of Ken Kesey's Hashbury experiments and of the Jefferson Airplane. Thus there is a strong imitation of Negro blues, perhaps more than any other component of the sound.
The singing is guttural and the lyrics most often come out as "Ah luhv you, babuh."

It was clear last night that that love was not unreciprocated. The crowd of teeny-boppers and college students was appropriately grateful in their response.
Contributing to the trip-ish effect was the Brotherhood of Fillmore West who provided great swirling blobs of color and design projected behind the stage.
Sometimes the light show suggested messy brain surgery; other times it looked like St. Vitus dance with the yin and yang symbol clashing creepy blue blobs. It was, as they say, out of sight.
The Grateful Dead were preceded by two crowd-warming groups, Aum and Sanpaku, neither of whom seemed wildly original.

(by Gordon Young, from the Fresno Bee, 14 June 1969)